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Top 6 gas heater safety tips

The temperature's dipped and scarves are out of storage, so that means it's time to switch on the gas heater or think about how to use gas safety.

If you already have a heater, before turning it back on, have a think about safety.

Unsafe heaters can cause house fires or emit dangerous fumes such as carbon monoxide. It’s colourless and odourless, so it’s difficult to notice a leak until it’s too late and someone feels dizzy or passes out.

Having your heater professionally serviced regularly plays a big role in ensuring that dangerous leaks don’t happen, but it is also useful to look at other ways you can avoid risk.

Before you buy a gas heater

Firstly, check that you have a gas outlet where you want to place a gas heater. If not, this is definitely not a DIY task or for an Airtasker – call a licensed gas fitter or gas plumber.

If you’re having a gas line installed, have a good think about placement. You need to weigh up where in the home you want to heat, the safest place for the heater, and the costs of plumbing a new gas line – it’s tempting to prioritise cost and choose a location close to an existing gas line.

And if you have an unflued gas heater, it is vital to keep it in an area that is properly ventilated so that fumes can go out and fresh air can come on. Never use outdoor heaters inside the home as carbon monoxide can build up quickly.

Choosing a gas heater

When you’re ready to go shopping, you’ll need to choose between a flued heater or one that in unflued – that is, where air pollutants are released inside the home. Generally, it’s better to opt for a flued heater but this isn’t always possible, and some well-ventilated spaces may suit an unflued unit.

Make sure the heater you select has an electric ignition and consider choosing a unit that switches itself off, if it detects a lack of sufficient fresh air.

As a minimum, ensure the heater is tested to the most recent standards and has been certified by the Australian Gas Association. If you’re unsure, the AGA’s website includes a product directory listing all certified models.

Choosing a unit that suits the size of the space you plan to heat will also be more energy efficient – a specialist gas retailer can advise, so go shopping prepared with measurements.

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Using your gas heater safely

Read your unit’s instruction manual, as this will help guide you around your system’s individual capacities and features.

Here are a few extra safety points:

  • When using an unflued heater, avoid running exhaust fans (in the bathroom and kitchen) as these could cause carbon monoxide to leak back into the room.
  • If you are using a flued heater, keep an eye on the walls next to the heater or the unit itself. Any stains or discolouration could indicate a blocked flue, which means pollutants will be leaking inside, rather than being chanelled out. Turn the heater off and call a professional to clean it out.
  • Consider getting a carbon monoxide alarm, although these should not be used instead of proper installation, servicing and for unflued heaters, ventilation.
  • Never use an unflued gas heater over in a bedroom.
  • Keep children and pets away from gas heaters, refrain from placing clothes and towels over them and keep the units at least a metre from all flammable objects including books, furniture and curtains.
  • Is your heater old or second-hand? Have a professional service it before each winter, and consider replacing it with a newer model.

Want to know more about using natural gas?

Learn about using natural gas safely, and what to do if you suspect that your home has a gas leak.

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